Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers finally couldn't withstand the pressure to resign anymore and did the right thing...or was forced to, kicking and screaming.
Embattled Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, has announced Tuesday that he is retiring and has endorsed his son, John Conyers III to run for his seat. Conyers' lawyer confirmed that the retirement is effective immediately.
"My legacy can't be compromised or diminished in any way by what we're going through now. This too shall pass," said Conyers on a local Michigan radio station Tuesday morning.
He added, "I want you to know that my legacy will continue through my children. I have a great family here and especially in my oldest boy, John Conyers III who incidentally I endorsed to replace me in my seat in Congress."
Shortly after the announcement, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, took to the House floor to read a statement from Conyers. She said he asked her to read his statement announcing his decision and that he's notified House Speaker Paul Ryan, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder of his plans to step down.
"Given the totality of the circumstance of not being afforded the right of due process in conjunction with current health conditions, and to preserve my legacy and good name, I am retiring. I hope my retirement will be viewed in the larger perspective of my record of service as I enter a new chapter," the statement from Conyers read.
But as politically useless as the Congressional Black Caucus has been over the last decade or so, they have a valid point when it comes to the double standard of Democrats not having the back of black lawmakers like Conyers compared to say, Sen. Al Franken.
Many CBC members see a double standard at play. They won't say the treatment of Conyers is racist, necessarily — and all express strong support for his alleged victims — but they think white politicians accused of similar misconduct like Blake Farenthold, Al Franken, Roy Moore and Donald Trump get a "benefit of the doubt" that black politicians don't enjoy.
Some members believe House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders moved too quickly in calling on Conyers to resign and should have let the process play out more, although they understand the pressure she was facing. And still another faction thinks Conyers' declining health and mental acuity after more than 52 years in Congress led to the debacle, despite evidence that Conyers allegedly had been harassing female staffers for years.
There is also significant anger within the CBC, aimed at one of their own: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). Conyers was going to announce his retirement from Congress last Friday. Then Monica Conyers, the congressman's wife, and Jackson Lee got involved and stopped it from happening, said several Democratic lawmakers and aides. That decision dragged out the controversy for five days, although the delay ultimately allowed Conyers to endorse his son, John Conyers III, for his seat. Ian Conyers, the congressman's grand-nephew and a Michigan state senator, also may run, setting off an intrafamily battle.
Franken, by the way, has yet another accusation out against him today.
A former Democratic congressional aide said Al Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a U.S. senator.
The aide, whose name POLITICO is withholding to protect her identity, said Franken (D-Minn.) pursued her after her boss had left the studio. She said she was gathering her belongings to follow her boss out of the room. When she turned around, Franken was in her face.
The former staffer ducked to avoid Franken’s lips. As she hastily left the room, she said, Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
“He was between me and the door and he was coming at me to kiss me. It was very quick and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like ‘Wait, what is happening?’ But I knew whatever was happening was not right and I ducked,” the aide said in an interview. “I was really startled by it and I just sort of booked it towards the door and he said, ‘It’s my right as an entertainer.’”
The former staffer, who was in her mid-20s at the time of the incident, said she did not respond to Franken.
That was a bridge too far for Senate Democrats, who called on Franken en masse to resign, and tomorrow he is expected to do just that.
A Democratic official who has spoken to Al Franken and key aides says Franken will resign his Minnesota Senate seat on Thursday, the official tells MPR News.
The official spoke to Franken and separately to Franken's staff. A staff member told the official that Franken had gone to his Washington home to discuss his plans with family.
MPR News agreed to withhold the official's name because the official wanted to give Franken the chance to talk about his decision in his own words.
Franken faced a cascade of calls Wednesday from fellow Democrats and other political allies to leave office in response to multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
So in the same week, within 48 hours of each other, both Conyers and Franken are gone. I did say both had to go, but of course I also believe the same holds true for Roy Moore and Donald Trump.
And I know the argument, "If only Democrats resign then eventually there will be nothing but Republicans in Congress." I'm sorry, but morality shouldn't be wholly dependent on the cynicism of political expediency. That's what Republicans do.